Never has a Pope, in a book-length interview, dealt so directly with such wide-ranging and controversial issues as Pope Benedict XVI does in Light of the World. Taken from a recent week-long series of interviews with veteran journalist Peter Seewald, this book tackles head-on some of the greatest issues facing the world of our time.
Seewald poses such forthright questions to Pope Benedict as:
- What caused the clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church?
- Was there a "cover up"?
- Have you considered resigning?
- Does affirming the goodness of the human body mean a plea for "better sex"?
- Can there be a genuine dialogue with Islam?
- Should the Church rethink Catholic teaching on priestly celibacy, women priests, contraception, and same-sex relationships?
- Holy Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics?
- Is there a schism in the Catholic Church?
- Should there be a Third Vatican Council?
- Is there any hope for Christian unity?
- Is Christianity the only truth?
- Can the Pope really speak for Jesus Christ?
- How can the Pope claim to be "infallible"?
- Is there a dictatorship of relativism today?
Twice before these two men held wide-ranging discussions, which became the best-selling books Salt of the Earth and God and the World. Then, Seewalds discussion partner was Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vaticans chief doctrinal office. Now, Joseph Ratzinger is Pope Benedict XVI, the spiritual leader of the worlds over one billion Catholics.
Though Seewald now interviews the Pope himself, the journalist "pulls no punches", posing some of the thorniest questions any Pope has had to address. Believers and unbelievers will be fascinated to hear Benedicts thoughtful, straightforward and thought-provoking replies. This is no stern preachment or ponderous theological tract, but a lively, fast-paced, challenging, even entertaining exchange.
Pope Benedict XVI - Joseph Ratzinger
Pope Benedict XVI (Latin: Benedictus PP. XVI; Italian: Benedetto XVI; German: Benedikt XVI.; born Joseph Alois Ratzinger on 16 April 1927) is the 265th and reigning Pope, by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the head of the Roman Catholic Church and, as such, Sovereign of the Vatican City State. He was elected on 19 April 2005 in a papal conclave, celebrated his Papal Inauguration Mass on 24 April 2005, and took possession of his cathedral, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, on 7 May 2005. Pope Benedict XVI has both German and Vatican citizenship. He succeeded Pope John Paul II. Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, was for over two decades The Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope John Paul II. He is the author of Spirit of the Liturgy, Salt of the Earth, Introduction to Christianity, God and the World, Milestones, Called to Communion, God Is Near Us.
The extraordinary personal and professional chemistry of Peter Seewald and Joseph Ratzinger has proven itself over the years in previous book-length interviews. Light of the World is Seewalds latest conversation with the man who is now Pope Benedict XVI , and arguably the most compelling. The Benedict XVI who emerges from these pages is a man of profound faith and intellect, combined with disarming simplicity, and willing to engage any issue frankly and without rancor. For anyone interested in the future of the Church, this book is must reading.
- +Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Denver
"A gripping read. Pope Benedicts agile mind is perfectly suited to the dialogue form and he is a gifted teacher."
- Andrew Brown, Daily Telegraph
"A landmark in the ministry of Pope Benedict XVI"
- Catholic Herald leader, issue of Friday 26 Nov 2010
- From Chapter 1, 'Popes Do Not Fall from the Sky,' pages 3-5:
In the so-called 'room of tears' during a conclave three sets of robes lie waiting for the future Pope. One is long, one short, one middle-sized. What was going through your head in that room, in which so many new Pontiffs are said to have broken down? Does one wonder again here, at the very latest: Why me? What does God want of me?
Actually at that moment one is first of all occupied by very practical, external things. One has to see how to deal with the robes and such. Moreover I knew that very soon I would have to say a few words out on the balcony, and I began to think about what I could say. Besides, even at the moment when it hit me, all I was able to say to the Lord was simply: 'What are you doing with me? Now the responsibility is yours. You must lead me! I cant do it. If you wanted me, then you must also help me!' In this sense, I stood, let us say, in an urgent dialogue relationship with the Lord: if he does the one thing he must also do the other.
Did John Paul II want to have you as his successor?
That I do not know. I think he left it entirely up to the dear Lord.
Nonetheless he did not allow you to leave office. That could be taken as an argumentum e silentio, a silent argument for his favorite candidate.
He did want to keep me in office; that is well known. As my seventy-fifth birthday approached, which is the age limit when one submits ones resignation, he said to me, 'You do not have to write the letter at all, for I want to have you to the end.' That was the great and undeserved benevolence he showed me from the very beginning. He had read my Introduction to Christianity. Evidently it was an important book for him. As soon as he became Pope he had made up his mind to call me to Rome as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He had placed a great, very cordial, and profound trust in me. As the guarantee, so to speak, that we would travel the right course in the faith.
You visited John Paul II one more time when he was on his deathbed. On that evening you hurried back from a lecture in Subiaco, where you had spoken about 'Benedicts Europe in the Crisis of Cultures'. What if anything did the dying Pope say to you?
He was suffering much and, nevertheless, very alert. He said nothing more, though. I asked him for his blessing, which he gave me. So we parted with a cordial handshake, conscious that that was our last meeting.
From Chapter 6, 'Time for Conversion,' pages 64-66:
The changes of our time have brought other life-styles and philosophies of life with them, but also a different perception of the Church. Advances in medical research pose enormous ethical challenges. The new universe of the Internet, too, demands answers.
John XXIII seized upon the change after the two world wars so as to interpret the 'signs of the time', as he put it in the bull of convocation Humanae salutis, dated December 25, 1961, as pointing to a council, even though he was already at that time an old, sick man. Will Benedict XVI do the same?
Well, now, John XXIII made a great, unrepeatable gesture in entrusting to a general council the task of understanding the word of faith today in a new way. Above all, the Council took up and carried out its great mission of defining in a new way the Churchs purpose as well as her relation to the modern era, and also the relation of faith to this time with its values. But to put into practice what was said, while remaining within the intrinsic continuity of the faith, is a much more difficult process than the Council itself. Especially since the Council came into the world in the interpretation devised by the media more than with its own documents, which are hardly ever read by anyone.
I think that our major task now, after a few fundamental questions are clarified, is first of all to bring to light Gods priority again. The important thing today is to see that God exists, that God matters to us, and that he answers us. And, conversely, that if he is omitted, everything else might be as clever as can be, yet man then loses his dignity and his authentic humanity and, thus, the essential thing breaks down. That is why, I think, as a new emphasis we have to give priority to the question about God.
Do you think that the Catholic Church could really get around having the Third Vatican Council?
In all we have had more than twenty councils, and surely there will be another one someday. At the moment I do not see the prerequisites for it. I believe that at the moment the bishops synods are the right instrument, in which the entire episcopate is represented and is, so to speak, 'searching', keeping the whole Church together and at the same time leading her forward. Whether then someday the moment will come again to do this in a major council, that we should leave to the future. At the moment we need, above all, those spiritual movements in which the universal Church, drawing upon her current experiences and at the same time coming from the interior experience of faith and of its power, sets up guideposts, and thereby makes Gods presence the central focus again.
From Chapter 17, 'The Return of Jesus Christ' pages 175-177:
Jesus does not merely bring a message, he is also the Savior, the healer, Christus medicus, as an old expression has it. Given this society of ours, which is so broken and unhealthy in so many ways, as we have often said in this interview, isnt it an especially pressing task of the Church to take extra pains to highlight the offer of salvation contained in the Gospel? Jesus, at any rate, made his disciples strong enough, not just to preach, but also to expel demons and to heal.
Yes, thats key. The Church is not here to place burdens on the shoulders of mankind, and she does not offer some sort of moral system. The really crucial thing is that the Church offers Him. That she opens wide the doors to God and so gives people what they are most waiting for and what can most help them. The Church does this mainly through the great miracle of love, which never stops happening afresh. When people, without earning any profit, without having to do it because it is their job, are motivated by Christ to stand by others and to help them. You are right that this therapeutic character of Christianity, as Eugen Biser put it, ought to be much more clearly in evidence than it is.
A major problem for Christians is that they stand unprotected in the middle of a world that is basically continually launching bombs against the alternative values of Christian culture. Wouldnt you have to say that it is impossible to be entirely immune to this sort of worldwide propaganda in favor of negative behavior?
It is true that we need something like islands where faith in God and the interior simplicity of Christianity are alive and radiant; oases, Noahs arks, to which man can always come back for refuge. Liturgical spaces offer such protective zones. But there are also various communities and movements, the parishes, celebrations of the sacraments, exercises of piety, pilgrimages, and so forth, in which the Church attempts to instill powers of resistance as well as to develop protective zones in which the beauty of the world, of the gift of being alive, also becomes visible in contrast to the rampant brokenness around us.